Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home


A Good Day

Publication Date: 2006-09-25


When one runs a website that purports to be people-centered, then people write, asking for some attention to be centered on them. And there is an obligation to respond. I have changed all the names in this account, not even letting you know in which state this 18-year-old lives.



4:20 p.m. Sunday
hi my name is rebekah and i am 18yrs old and in the 10th grade i was going to ____high school in ____, __ until i turned 18 and thay kicked me out because thay think im to old to be in there school thay told my mother and me that there is no one as old as me in the 10th but i no there is i have friends that are older then me that are still in the 9th grade so can you help me get back in school by telling me what i can do cause by law i can be in school in ky until i am 21yrs old please help me if you can thank you rebekah ____.

When I tried to write back, my message bounced, indicating, 'user doesn't have a Yahoo account.' That could mean she didn't register it properly. Yes, it crosses my mind that her e-mail could be bogus. I get those. I only know I have to proceed with the belief what when people cry out, they need to be heard.

I looked up contact info for a few people in the school district with fancy titles and sent this e-mail to the superintendent, to the executive director of student support, and to the director of prevention services.

8:30 p.m. Sunday
Hello,

I run a national student advocacy website and received this desperate-sounding e-mail today.

"hi my name is rebekah and i am 18yrs old and in the 10th grade i was going to ____ high school in ____, __until i turned 18 and thay kicked me out because thay think im to old to be in there school thay told my mother and me that there is no one as old as me in the 10th but i no there is i have friends that are older then me that are still in the 9th grade so can you help me get back in school by telling me what i can do cause by law i can be in school in ky until i am 21yrs old please help me if you can thank you rebekah ___."

I have no way of knowing anything about the facts of this case, or even if it is a legitimate plea, but as a longtime teacher of students who didn't thrive in school (and as a teacher who never gave up), I am very concerned.

I wonder if you can check your records with regards to this student and then advise me on the next step.
Thank you.

Susan Ohanian
Senior Fellow
Vermont Society for the Study of Education


I tried to combine the polite subservience to authority that schools wallow in along with a hint that I'd take this matter further, if necessary, which is why I included my affiliation with VSSE. The school district response was not warm, but it was speedy.

9:30 a.m. Monday

Mr. _____ [the superintendent] forwarded your message to me. Rebekah did not enroll at the high school this year. I called our adult high school and she has not made any contact with them. She would be able to go there and finish her education. If she has any questions, she can call our office. Due to confidentiality, this is as much as I am able to say.

Hope this answers your inquiry.

____ ____
Director, Medicaid Reimbursement, Attendance
and Section 504

I can find no comfort here. It looks like the school district's attitude is they will answer the phone if it rings. I just grow more and more frantic, thinking about this young woman who had the initiative to search the Internet, looking for a way to get back in school. I spend much of the day wondering what to do next, particularly since I can't seem to make any variation of the e-mail Rebekah gave me work. . . and of course there are these privacy issues that the Director of Attendance hints at.

I thought of just blindly contacting a reporter, but I am worried about the privacy issues. The young woman asked me a question. She didn't give me permission to broadcast her personal story.

I guess I am suspicious of the district because I am intimately connected with the World of Opportunity in Birmingham, AL, which tries to rescue high schoolers systematically 'terminated' from the local schools. And I just hate for this young woman to think that nobody cares.

5:57 p.m. Monday
hi this is rebekah i have a new email address i was having trouble with the last one i just want to say THANK YOU! for helping me and sending a email to the school my mother and i went to the shcool today to see if they had any anwers for us and thay didnt we were so upset and didnt no what what we should do next so we went to talk to the superintendent of the school we didnt get to talk to him we talked to mr ___ the director pupil personnel and he told us about the email you sent and he is working with me to get me back in the high school so i just want to say you are a blessing and thank you so very much because with out you i was a voice unheard and now they here me thank you rebekah ____

Ha! When Rebekah decides to use capital letters--and punctuation--she puts them to good purpose: THANK YOU!

I end the day with a full heart. But I can't resist. One more letter. Ever the teacher, I have to point to a moral. I want to be sure this young woman realizes what she accomplished.

Dear Rebekah,

I am so happy to hear this. I was very worried when my messages to you 'bounced.'

I think it is to the school's credit that they answered me very quickly. Some schools would just have ignored me. (Ha! Maybe I scared them.) Whatever the case is, they see you are determined and that your mother is standing with you. . . as well as a friend in Vermont. I know that it is important that young people not have to stand all alone. And it is important for the school to know that people are watching over you, caring about you.

I admire you and your mother for working at this and not taking "No" for an answer. This attitude will help you in whatever you do.

Let me know how your high school courses are going. I am a longtime teacher of young people who struggled in high school, and I will do whatever I can to help.

Your friend,
Susan Ohanian

If we become penpals, one day I will tell Rebekah that my father didn't graduate from high school until he was 21.


FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.